Monday, July 25, 2011

Water transfers: Will ag water be protected?

Water transfers from agriculture to municipal uses are raising concerns on both sides of the Continental Divide. “We’re a nation that is frankly spoiled by food prices — less than 10 percent of income is spent on food,” Bill Trampe, a Gunnison rancher told the Colorado Water Forum on Thursday. “As food prices rise, it's going to be interesting to see how consumers react. Will we save enough acres to provide food in the future?” Trampe explained how his grandfather came to Gunnison in 1900 as a dryland farmer who fed miners. Over the years, the family adapted to changing conditions, using irrigation to reduce risks and switching the business emphasis to cattle ranching after the miners left. The recreation economy is supplanting cattle ranching in the Gunnison River basin, and Trampe said the family business could be gone in 10 years, but he reiterated the need to keep water in agriculture as a matter of national food security. Dan Henrichs, an Avondale rancher and superintendent of the High Line Canal, said water transfers already have devastated parts of the Arkansas Valley. “The Arkansas basin is the poster child of how not to do transfers,” Henrichs said. The answer is to keep agriculture healthy through temporary sales of water through leases rather than large-scale dry-ups...more

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